Geranium (Geranium spp.)

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • 3-Beta-caffeoyl-12-oleanen-28-oic acid, A-type proanthocyanidins, baby keeper cream, catechins, citronellol, citrosa plant, condensed tannins, cranesbill, epiafzelechin-(4beta–>8,2beta–>O–>7)-afzelechin (geranin A), epicatechin-(4beta–>8,2beta–>O–>7)-afzelechin (geranin B), flavonoids, Geraniaceae, Geranium incanum Burm., Geranium maculatum, Geranium nepalense, Geranium nepalense Sweet, Geranium niveum, geranium oil, Geranium robertianum, Geranium sanguineum L., Geranium sibiricum Linné, Geranium strictipes, Geranium sylvaticum, Geranium thunbergii, Geranium thunbergii Siebold ex Lindl. & Paxton,
    Geranium wallichianum, Geranium wallichianum D.Don ex Sweet, hyperin, isomenthone, linalool, mahuannin B, methyl gallate, plant volatile oils, polyphenolic acid, polyphenolic complex PC, proanthocyanidins, reynoutrin, rose geranium.

  • Note: Geranium is the common name for two genera, Geranium and Pelargonium, both of which are used as herbal supplements. This monograph discusses evidence regarding the use of the Geranium genus. However, many published papers do not mention genus of geranium used, which increases confusion in the field. A number of preclinical and clinical trials have studied the effects of Pelargonium.

Background

  • The genus Geranium includes 422 species of flowering plants found in temperate and mountainous regions in the tropics. The plant is also known as “cranesbill” because the seeds have the same shape as the bill of a crane.

  • Geranium and Pelargonium can be told apart by looking at their flowers, as Geranium has symmetrical flowers and Pelargonium has irregular petals. The subject of this monograph is Geranium species.

  • Historically, all parts of the Geranium plant were used by Native Americans to treat diarrhea, bleeding, and swelling. It has also been used in perfumes and soaps.

  • Geranium has been studied for its antibacterial properties and as a mosquito repellent. However, there are conflicting results.

Scientific Evidence

Uses

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Insect repellent

Geraniums are garden plants commonly used to repel mosquitoes. Some studies looked at the effects of geranium essential oil when applied to the skin. However, the results were unclear, and further research is required.

*Key to grades:

Tradition

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, antiparasitic, aromatherapy, arsenic poisoning, astringent (tightens the skin), bladder inflammation, bleeding, cancer, canker sores, Crohn’s disease (stomach disorder), depression, diarrhea, diuretic (increases urine flow), epilepsy (seizure), fragrance, gastrointestinal inflammation (stomach inflammation), gum disease, hemorrhoids, herpes, hormonal disorders, influenza, kidney dysfunction, leg swelling, menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding), nosebleed, skin care, sleep, swelling, tuberculosis.

Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (18 years and older)

  • Note: Due to common use of the name “geranium” when discussing plants of the Pelargonium genus, it is unclear if some of the following historical uses are referring to Geranium or Pelargonium species. Caution is advised.

  • To treat diarrhea, cranesbill tea (Geranium genus) should not be used for more than 2-3 consecutive weeks. A dose of 1.5 teaspoons or three milliliters of Geranium tincture has been taken by mouth three times daily. Geranium tea prepared by boiling 1-2 teaspoons for 10-15 minutes in 500 milliliters of water has been taken by mouth in at least three cups daily. A dose of 1,200 milligrams of geranium (genus unknown) has been taken by mouth 2-3 times daily with meals, but long-term use is not suggested.

  • To repel insects, a single dose of geranium oil (genus unknown, although likely Pelargonium) has been applied to the skin.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for Geranium in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in people who are allergic or sensitive to Geranium species or members of the Geraniaceae family.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Geranium is considered safe when applied to the skin to repel insects. Geranium is considered safe when used to treat diarrhea. Safety data and reports of side effects are lacking.

  • Avoid in people who are allergic or sensitive to Geranium species or members of the Geraniaceae family.

  • Use cautiously when drinking tea made from Geranium for more than 2-3 weeks.

  • Use cautiously in people who take anticholinergics (agents that block nerve impulses) or laxatives.

  • Use cautiously in people who have constipation.

  • Geranium may cause stomach upset.

  • Note: Geranium thunbergii, Geranium nepalense, Geranium wallichianum, and Geranium maculatum are in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) poisonous plant database.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • There is a lack of scientific evidence on the use of Geranium during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

  • Geranium may interact with agents that block nerve impulses, antianxiety agents, antibiotics, anticancer agents, antidiarrheal agents, antifungal agents, antiparasitic agents, antiviral agents, cholinesterase inhibitors (agents that treat brain disorders), and laxatives.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Geranium may interact with antibacterials, anticancer herbs and supplements, antidiarrheals, antifungals, antioxidants, antiparasitics, antivirals, cholinergics (herbs and supplements that treat brain disorders), herbs and supplements that block nerve impulses, and insect repellents.

Author Information

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Amaral S, Mira L, Nogueira JM, et al. Plant extracts with anti-inflammatory properties–a new approach for characterization of their bioactive compounds and establishment of structure-antioxidant activity relationships. Bioorg.Med Chem 3-1-2009;17(5):1876-1883. View Abstract
  2. Barclay J, Vestey J, Lambert A, et al. Reducing the symptoms of lymphoedema: is there a role for aromatherapy? Eur J Oncol.Nurs 2006;10(2):140-149. View Abstract
  3. Calzada F, Cerda-Garcia-Rojas CM, Meckes M, et al. Geranins A and B, new antiprotozoal A-type proanthocyanidins from Geranium niveum. J Nat Prod 1999;62(5):705-709. View Abstract
  4. Conrad A, Jung I, Tioua D, et al. Extract of Pelargonium sidoides (EPs 7630) inhibits the interactions of group A-streptococci and host epithelia in vitro. Phytomedicine 2007;14 Suppl 6:52-59. View Abstract
  5. Dorman HJ, Deans SG. Antimicrobial agents from plants: antibacterial activity of plant volatile oils. J Appl.Microbiol. 2000;88(2):308-316. View Abstract
  6. Govere J, Durrheim DN, Du Toit N, et al. Local plants as repellents against Anopheles arabiensis, in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. Cent.Afr J Med 2000;46(8):213-216. View Abstract
  7. Guevara JM, Chumpitaz J, Valencia E. [The in vitro action of plants on Vibrio cholerae]. Rev Gastroenterol Peru 1994;14(1):27-31. View Abstract
  8. Gwynne M, Newton W. Geranium extract reduces bronchitis symptoms. J Fam Pract 2004;53(3):180-181. View Abstract
  9. Ji MS, Piao XL, Jin YL, et al. Anticoagulant 1,2,3,4,6-pentagalloyl-beta-D-glucopyranose isolated from geranium (Pelargonium inquinans Ait). Arch Pharm Res 2005;28(9):1037-1041. View Abstract
  10. Matsuda BM, Surgeoner GA, Heal JD, et al. Essential oil analysis and field evaluation of the citrosa plant “Pelargonium citrosum” as a repellent against populations of Aedes mosquitoes. J Am Mosq.Control Assoc 1996;12(1):69-74. View Abstract
  11. Murzakhmetova M, Moldakarimov S, Tancheva L, et al. Antioxidant and prooxidant properties of a polyphenol-rich extract from Geranium sanguineum L. in vitro and in vivo. Phytother.Res 2008;22(6):746-751. View Abstract
  12. Paez X, Hernandez L. Topical hemostatic effect of a common ornamental plant, the geraniaceae Pelargonium zonale. J Clin Pharmacol 2003;43(3):291-295. View Abstract
  13. Schelz Z, Molnar J, Hohmann J. Antimicrobial and antiplasmid activities of essential oils. Fitoterapia 2006;77(4):279-285. View Abstract
  14. Shim JU, Lim KT. Antioxidative activity of glycoprotein isolated from Geranium sibiricum Linne. Nat Prod Res 2009;23(4):375-387. View Abstract
  15. Zuo GY, Wang GC, Zhao YB, et al. Screening of Chinese medicinal plants for inhibition against clinical isolates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). J Ethnopharmacol. 11-20-2008;120(2):287-290. View Abstract

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.